A Trumpeter Discharged: William Affleck


William Affleck was born on the island of St Kitts and enlisted in the British army in 1801 in Hounslow, Middlesex. In 1819, he was discharged on the grounds of poor health, having spent almost all of his army career as a trumpeter.

Discharge papers, such as Affleck's, are now the main (and sometimes the only) source of information about individual soldiers. These papers were retained by the army whenever a soldier was discharged with a pension. But the majority of rank-and-file soldiers, both Black and White, were ineligible for a pension, so their service records were destroyed after their discharge from the army. It is therefore impossible to tell exactly how many soldiers in the British army were Black.

In order to identify individual Black soldiers among the discharge papers that were retained, it is necessary to search for indicators of race within the records themselves. We only know that William Affleck was Black because, in addition to specifying his birthplace, his service record states that he was of 'black Complexion'.

WO 97/12 (1819)

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